15TH HAVANA THEATER FESTIVAL
Oral narration: Mayra Navarro’s passion and raison
MAYRA Navarro is a master par
excellence in the art of oral narration on stage, a
title earned by her experience, her charisma, her
domination of technique from gestures and from words.
Alone on the stage, armed solely
with her voice and gestures, she attains the magic
of enchanting the public: children, young people,
For Mayra Navarro, oral narration
"has been a passion and raison d’être" since she
took her first steps in this art in 1962, at the
National Library, and she speaks with pride of her
mentor, the poet Eliseo Diego.
The most recent dialogue, a
prolonged conversation, has as its center the
presence of oral narrators as guests at the 15th
Havana Theater Festival.
Spectators now have the opportunity
to appreciate a performance organized by the Oral
Narration Forum attached to Havana’s Gran Teatro, of
which she is president.
As she explained for Granma
International, "The performance is the
continuity of a work that we have been doing for
many years in the Festival so that oral narration
has a presence in the official programming."
Navarra noted that interest this
year has focused on "bringing to light the work of
projects in the City of Havana, those which have a
representative direction, so that the public
interested in oral narration can see the work which
is going on."
To this end, the projects
NarrArte (Mayra Navarro – Contar sin cuenta);
TeCUENTO, Abrapalabra (Nancy Fernandez –
La bruja enamorada); ContArte (Elvia
Perez–Del canto y del cuento);
ParaContarteMejor, CeiBaobab (Dayana
Deulofeu- Corazon de hielo), among others,
have been presented at the Casa del Alba.
She also referred to the interesting
closing performance of the show La música de las
palabras, which had the participation of "Patrick
Mohr, theater director and narrator of stories from
Switzerland, and his wife Cathy Sarr, who is
Senegalese, together with narrators of the stature
of Coralia Rodríguez, Amanda Cerero, and Jesús
Lozada, accompanied by trova singers Karen Garcia,
Roly Berrio, and the Dúo de Lien y Rey.
Do you consider oral narration the
beginning of everything?
It’s the beginning of everything
because there are the oral narrations, legends,
myths, in which people began to dream and shape
those dreams, their fears, desires, and all the
beautiful things which have happened and have come
down to us.
But I believe that currently, oral
narration is an independent art which, although it
moves in the in the circuit of performance arts, is
more an art which comes marked by its oral nature,
by the fundamental text of the word and the
attributes which clothe and make words more
effective. This allows for an intense relationship
with the public. I’m not saying that one thing is
better than the other, they are communicating
vessels, the theater is part of communication, and
they coincide in space and time and complement each
What are the characteristics of
stage oral narrators?
In the broadest sense, first of all
they must be persons who feel the need to
communicate, with a dominion of oral language, with
an awareness of their bodies. They must have a
literary and artistic culture upon which to base
themselves in order to be able to create this magic
which is the process of sharing stories, because a
narrator is not only someone who tells a story, the
public counts as well as an interlocutor, and
returns this energy, re-elaborates it.
The principal difficulties?
First, one great difficulty, which
brings us to the realization that telling stories is
an art in itself. Also, we are confused to a certain
extent with actors, people believe that we do
monologues, but monologues are part of theatrical
arts, and oral narration is an art in itself which
has its own laws. It isn’t a tributary of the
theater, it is the art of the living word. We do not
do monologues, we dialogue with the public, which is
our interlocutor. We are not historical characters,
we are not the protagonists of what we are telling,
we are telling the others’ stories. Narrators are
the owner of their versions and can elaborate a
story in situ, at least that is what we should be
For Mayra Navarro the enchantment of
oral narration is that "it promotes open
communication, in which interaction with the public
is the determining factor."
That is certainly so because she,
always distinguished, charismatic on and off the
stage, possesses the magic of enchanting, from her
gestures and words, hundreds of people, while being
armed only with a story, commencing sometimes with
those four words that unfetter the imagination at
any age: "Once upon a time…"